This venerable French dictionary of culinary terms and recipes has evolved, in the twenty-first century, into a handy, three-volume paperback set that, in my home, bookends a small but well used collection of cookbooks in the kitchen. In thinking about the upcoming culinary trip to Paris, I again read through the short introduction by the Larousse gastronomic oversight committee (led by French chef and restauranteur Joel Robuchon)and run across the observation that, without its roots, without reference to the traditions of the past, the culinary arts have no soul.
This sentiment is, in part, what draws me to cooking in Paris, where reference to the culinary traditions of the past are all around, and where La Chef has scoffed at my desire to pair a salmon mousse entree with chocolate truffles for dessert. "That simply isn't done!" she comments. I see that, as an American, I am not consciously bound to the rules and traditions of the past, and yet it creeps up to shape us in ways overlooked. Certainly my love of the culinary arts comes from a long tradition of cooking women in the family's past, with recipes scrawled in a grandmother's pencilled script or committed to memory through the oral tradition of the less literary side of the family. So, with this trip, I move forward into the future, to meet the past.